SANTA FE, N.M. — In the wake of a long-running legal dispute in northwestern New Mexico over a Ten Commandments monument on public property, officials in Santa Fe are taking another look at a similar display that has gone relatively unnoticed for years.

The Santa Fe New Mexican reports the six-foot tall stone tablets are located in Ashbaugh Park in front of a city fire station. Weathered streaks make the etched words difficult to read.

Officials can’t recall receiving any complaints about its placement on city property. They also say they’re not sure where the monument came from, or when, and which department was responsible for the land where it sits.

Amid the debate and attention the city of Bloomfield has drawn defending its Ten Commandments monument, Santa Fe’s counterpart tablets have been inconspicuous, mentioned only in the occasional letter to the editor and never the subject of a lawsuit.

“It appears to be in a spot where no one walks — and honestly I don’t think that many people even know it’s there or why,” said Matt O’Reilly, the city’s asset development director.

An inscription at the base of the monument indicates it was donated to the city by the Fraternal Order of Eagles in 1968.

That predates the Bloomfield monument, first placed on the City Hall lawn there in 2011. Bloomfield’s sculpture — more prominently located, backed by a former city councilor and local churches in heavily Republican San Juan County — became a firestorm from the start.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of two Wiccan residents, arguing the monument’s placement amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of a religion.

Earlier this month, their complaint finally won out when the Supreme Court declined to hear a petition brought by the nonprofit group representing Bloomfield. That validated an appeals court ruling that found the monument unconstitutional.

That legal battle has prompted the Santa Fe city attorney’s office to review the case and whether the city might act on its own publicly situated monument, city spokesman Matt Ross said.

“It’s not at City Hall — I think that probably makes a difference,” Ross said. “It’s not exactly a place of prominence.”

Peter Simonson, executive director of the state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said his group had considered taking action on the Santa Fe monument in recent years. But he said Santa Fe’s old monument was less likely to be found unconstitutional.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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